Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
27th September 2023

Here’s what caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield this week.

What’s in your genes?

Farmers Guide reported this week on developments towards a progressive and supportive regulatory system for gene edited products, which was hailed by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) following a recent Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board meeting. The changes which were discussed would make England a world leader in the field, and could open up significant potential for increased investment and international research collaboration.

The proposals which were tabled at the FSA meeting should be brought forward as secondary legislation, under the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act. FG reports that the proposals are similar to the recent changes made in Canada, and are also in line with similar proposals currently in front of the EU. One of the key modifications will be the removal of a requirement for separate risk assessment, traceability or labelling of precision bred products, bringing their treatment much closer to that of standard products.

NIAB chief executive Professor Mario Caccamo was quoted as saying “By adopting one of the most progressive and enabling regulatory systems for gene edited products in the world, and with such an internationally recognised research base in plant genetic science, England could genuinely be on course to become one of the best places globally to invest in agri-food research and innovation.”

Livestock methane rethink

Environmental Research – Letters has published a pioneering study by UK scientists that demonstrates the need for using multiple metrics for measuring methane emissions from livestock. Although a widely used metric, the global warming potential (GWP) is criticised for being used as an ‘across-the-board’ application in Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) “…particularly of food systems which generate large amounts of methane.”

The study reports a largescale sensitivity analysis using a pasture-based beef production system (a high producer of methane emissions) as its subject. Researchers found that the choice of climate impact assessment has dramatic effects on interpretation, with GWP and GTP (Global Temperature Change Potential) producing substantially different results, due to their different treatments of methane, in the context of carbon dioxide equivalents.

The message, therefore, is an old one. Do not blindly trust information which is not backed up by significant research, and statistics and data can be manipulated to suit the purpose of whoever is using them.

We clearly need further studies to clarify the discrepancies uncovered, and before the whole beef, dairy and lamb sectors are curtailed by over-eager governments following data which needs a lot of further scrutiny. Remember the Irish reports AF highlighted in July, that 65,000 cattle will be culled each year for four years to help the country hit green house gas emissions?


Natural Capital Pro Council

Trinity Natural Capital Group has convened a new membership organisation to develop a  “new trusted natural capital valuation, accounting, and reporting framework.”

The council includes Chavereys, Fisher German, Knight Frank, Mills and Reeve, Oxbury Bank, Royal Agricultural Society of England, Saffery, Scottish Land and Estates and Trinity Natural Capital Group.

The stated intention of Dr Hosein Khajeh-Hosseiny, chairman of Trinity Natural Capital Group, is that “…the new framework will help facilitate the redirection of a significant amount of global capital into farming.” He added “Gold once drove explorers and economies, but in today’s world, natural capital is our most vital commodity; it’s the currency of the future.”

Nick Holmes, from rural accountancy firm Chavereys said natural capital is the “nucleus of economic activity and sustainability’ and added it should sit at the core of financial reporting in a measuring and professional manner to avoid ‘greenwashing.”

AF has bemoaned the lack of an organised and regulated natural capital and carbon reporting framework and market in these pages previously, but we remain unconvinced that this vital task should be left to a self-appointed body, rather than DEFRA who must step in to define and regulate this important asset.


Anti Tweet of the week

This person is hopefully not participating in British Food Fortnight!